8 Ways to Avoid Barking up the Wrong Family Tree BMDBMD about.com genealogy Kimberley Powell
Your work on someone else’s Tree !? <ul><li>There is nothing more frustrating than finding out the ancestors you've been so diligently researching aren't really yours at all . That the hours and money you've spent on your research has been wasted. So the ancestors you've come to know and love aren't connected to you by history or blood. Yet, it happens to most of us at one time or another. Genealogy research isn't perfect. A lack of records, incorrect data, and embellished family stories can easily send us off in the wrong direction. How can we avoid this heartbreaking result in our own family research? It isn't always possible to avoid wrong turns, but these steps may help keep you from barking up the wrong family tree . </li></ul>
Don't Skip Generations <ul><li>Skipping generations in your research is the most common mistake made by beginners. Even if you think you know everything about yourself and your parents, you shouldn't skip directly to your grandparents. Or your immigrant ancestor. Or the famous person that you've been told you're descended from. Working your way back one generation at a time greatly lessens your chances at attaching the wrong ancestor to your family tree , because you'll have the supporting documents - birth records, marriage certificates, census records, etc. - to support the link between each generation. </li></ul>
Don't Make Assumptions About Family Relationships <ul><li>Family terms such as "Junior" and "Senior" as well as "aunt" and "cousin" were often used very loosely in earlier times - and still are, even today. A designation of Jr., for example, may have been used in official records to identify between two men of the same name, even if they were unrelated (the younger of the two being called "Jr."). You also shouldn't assume relationships between people living in a household unless it is specifically stated. The sole adult-aged female listed in your great-great grandfather's household, may indeed be his wife - or it could be a sister-in-law or family friend. </li></ul>
Does it Make Sense? <ul><li>Constantly review all new information that you add to your family tree to make sure that it is at least plausible. If the date of your ancestor's marriage is only 7 years after they were born, for example, you have a problem. The same goes for two children born less than 9 months apart, or children born before their parents. Does the birth place listed in the census correlate with what you've learned about your ancestor? Have you possibly skipped a generation? Look at the information you've gathered and ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" </li></ul>
Get Organized <ul><li>The more organized your genealogy research, the less likely that you'll mix up information or make other simple, but deadly, mistakes. </li></ul><ul><li>Choose a filing system that works with the way you do research, making sure that it includes a way to organize both your papers and certificates, and your digital documents and other computer files. </li></ul>
Verify Research Done By Others <ul><li>It's hard enough avoiding your own mistakes, without having to worry about the mistakes of others as well . Publication - whether in print or online - doesn't make anything fact, so you should always take steps to verify previous research before incorporating it into your own. </li></ul>
Rule Out the Other Possibilities <ul><li>You know that your great-great-grandfather lived in Bristol around the turn-of-the-century, so you look him up in the 1901 U.K. census and there he is! In truth, however, this isn't him - just someone else with the same name living in the same area during the same time period. It is a scenario that actually isn't all that uncommon, even with names you might think are unique. When researching your family, it is always a good idea to check the surrounding area to see if there is someone else who could fit the bill. </li></ul>
Turn to DNA <ul><li>Blood doesn't lie, so if you really want to be sure a DNA test may be the way to go. DNA tests can't currently tell you who your specific ancestors are, but they can help narrow things down quite a bit. </li></ul>
Where do you come from? Are you barking up The correct family trees?
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.